Senator Flake’s Defense of the Establishment

I want to dig rather deep into Senator Flake’s anti-Trump op-ed, because it perfectly encapsulates what I think is wrong with a certain species of Conservatism. His bits are in block quotes:

Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process? With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.

Your first clue is “oversimplified”. You see, you might think that the problem of lax enforcement of our laws is, well, lax enforcement of our laws – but you’re wrong! It’s complex. Sure, all complexities tend to work in favor of letting Progressives get their way and/or get away with it, but it’s complex! Trust us!

I will let the liberals answer for their own sins in this regard. (There are many.) But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime.

How dare we Republicans make it a goal that Obama be a one-term President! Oh, what’s that you say? The Democrats have pledged to try and make Trump a less-than-one-term-President? And have dreamed of doing a “Watergate” on every GOP President since Nixon? Who cares about that! That is one of their own sins in this regard! We GOPers are better than that – so, let’s not have any of this nonsense about trying to make a Democrat a one-term President.

It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.

I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party. Michael Gerson, a con­servative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”

Just ignore all that bit about W being “selected, not elected”. Also, for goodness sake, please don’t remember all that “Chimpy McSmirk BusHitler” stuff. Pretty sure we need you to forget all that violent fantasies that Progressives entertained about President Bush, as well. And, if you really want to be cool, forget all those times you’ve been called a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot.

More important that we fear that “instability” – you see, when things aren’t going along just as they have, it is bad. Don’t ask why it’s bad: it just is. You are supposed to be shaking in your boots that Trump isn’t doing things like everyone else! Please be frighted. Pretty please? With sugar on top? If you won’t be frightened, then how am I to convince you to give power back to those you rejected last year?

For a conservative, that’s an awfully bitter pill to swallow. So as I layered in my defense mechanisms, I even found myself saying things like, “If I took the time to respond to every presiden­tial tweet, there would be little time for anything else.” Given the volume and velocity of tweets from both the Trump campaign and then the White House, this was certainly true. But it was also a monumental dodge. It would be like Noah saying, “If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.” At a certain point, if one is being honest, the flood becomes the thing that is most worthy of attention. At a certain point, it might be time to build an ark.

This is far more revealing than Flake meant, I’m sure. They hate that Trump tweets. They say they hate it because it is vulgar and chaotic – but what they really hate is that Trump is able to speak directly to the people. This bothers them because they know it signals and end on the Establishment monopoly on forming the American mind. It doubly bothers them that they know their Progressive buddies who run Twitter can’t afford to shut Trump down.

Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.

Apparently, being erratic is a crisis? You see how he’s doing this? He’s piggy-backing the idea of impeachment on to the notion that, somehow, Trump is just bad. He hasn’t broken any laws; he hasn’t done any un-Constitutional acts (you know, like using the IRS to attack his opponents – say, Senator Flake, did you urge the impeachment of President Obama over that “erratic” action?); but he’s got to go! Once again: please be afraid!

There was a time when the leadership of the Congress from both parties felt an institutional loyalty that would frequently create bonds across party lines in defense of congressional prerogatives in a unified front against the White House, regardless of the president’s party. We do not have to go very far back to identify these exemplars—the Bob Doles and Howard Bakers and Richard Lugars of the Senate. Vigorous partisans, yes, but even more important, principled constitutional conservatives whose primary interest was in governing and making America truly great.

Funny how that time of institutional loyalty always worked out to a Republican President being done in or at least harmed by his fellow Republicans. Where were the Democrats who went out to advise President Clinton that his perjury had forfeited his ability to be President? A Democrat who even made a peep about Obama’s pen-and-phone actions? The whole concept of institutional loyalty is bull – and Senator Flake knows it. There should be institutional loyalty, but there isn’t; and never really has been. We have partisan elections to determine which partisan policies we’ll pursue – and if the Congress and the White House are of the same party, they are just going to go on with it. The only difference is that there are always Republicans who are willing to undermine the evident will of the American people in creating either a Republican Congress and/or a Republican White House. Thanks, Senator! We definitely gave you our votes and campaign cash so that you could cut us off at the knees!

But then the period of collapse and dysfunction set in, amplified by the internet and our growing sense of alienation from each other, and we lost our way and began to rationalize away our principles in the process. But where does such capitulation take us? If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

The “period of collapse” started on January 20th – that is when some of us on the right decided, “you know, if the Democrats are going to play by certain rules which unfairly advantage Democrats, so will we”. We hear much of Conservative “principles”, but I’d like to know what set of Conservative principles has kept Planned Parenthood at the public trough for decades, even though we’ve often had the power to de-fund it? What got our higher education system to become a bastion of leftist tyranny against Conservatism without Senator Flake doing anything about it? You know, a Congressional majority has many way of applying pressure, Senator – why is no pressure ever put against Progressives advancing their cause? Why do your vaunted Conservative principles always work towards hamstringing our side, not theirs?

Meanwhile, the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe. Even as our own government was documenting a con­certed attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.

It was then that I was compelled back to Senator Goldwater’s book, to a chapter entitled “The Soviet Menace.” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this part of Goldwater’s critique had seemed particularly anachronistic. The lesson here is that nothing is gone forever, especially when it comes to the devouring ambition of despotic men. As Goldwater wrote in that chapter:

Our forebears knew that “keeping a Republic” meant, above all, keeping it safe from foreign transgressors; they knew that a people cannot live and work freely, and develop national institutions conducive to freedom, except in peace and with independence.

The election was hacked! I had no idea that any Republican Senator was subscribing to the Russia Collusion twaddle, but here it is. I don’t know if Flake believed this and thus became anti-Trump or if he was anti-Trump and thus believed it out of a general desire that Trump be terrible. It doesn’t matter. It’s a hoax; a myth; something that doesn’t exist. But the anti-Trump people are, seemingly, going to run with it. As for having affection for strongmen…an argument can be made to not have relations with dictatorial regimes. That does include Russia – but it also includes China. Funny how I never seem to hear one of these “principled” Conservatives demanding we break it off with China…even though China is vastly more powerful than Russia and is clearly preparing a military force designed to fight us. And you know why they won’t go after China: Corporate America is making too much money in China.

So, where should Republicans go from here? First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president “plays to the base” in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience. Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, but they handicap the country in the long term. Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries.

We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard won and vulnerable those institutions are.

“Plays to the base” is Establishment-speak for “talks about issues the yokels care about”. “Grow and speak to a larger audience” means, “make pathetic gestures in favor of Progressive policies in the hope that it’ll get me a good mention in the MSM”.

And, of course, he’s in favor of retaining the filibuster – because it helps Democrats to hamstring the GOP. That he knows full well Democrats will dispense with it at the first opportunity is just of no matter to people like Senator Flake. He doesn’t care about things like that – far more important to a “Conservative” like Flake is that things remain as they are…with Progressive policies ruling the roost; with corporate taxes kept low; with plenty of cheap labor for the Chamber of Commerce donors…and with a docile GOP base worked up to vote GOP every couple years, but never angry that the GOP fails to deliver.

I really have done with all that. Trump isn’t a threat to the United States – Senator Flake is. Flake is far more polite than Trump, but Flake’s politeness is masking the utter destruction of the United States of America. If we Conservatives/Republicans abandon Trump and go along with the likes of Senator Flake, all we’ll see is the slow imposition of a totally Progressive ideology – in other words, the end of our Republic because Progressives aren’t actually in favor of freedom (they have a different concept of freedom from us – to them, freedom is about not having want; for us, it is about not having masters).

I’ve got no hostility towards Flake. He is who he is – he is a product of the Establishment, defending the Establishment. The fact that he’s Republican rather than Democrat is really no more than a reflection of the GOP’s electoral advantage in Arizona. Had Flake been from, say, Oregon then he’d pretty much be the same…but he’d be a Democrat Senator from Oregon and in spite of this or that particular view, would mostly be wedded to the idea of keeping things as they are. We voted for Trump to end that – whether the prime motivation was outright support or just a desire to keep Hillary out, the thing about it all was a rejection of things as they are. We still don’t know if Trump can deliver, but rely on it that if he fails, we’re still not going back to Senator Flake, hat in hand, to ask him to return us to business as usual. For fifty years we waited for Senator Flake’s sort to take the power we gave them and do something we wanted – they couldn’t even de-fund NPR. Forget it, Senator: we’re done with you. Your op-ed will impress your fellow Never Trump people and get you a pat on the head from the MSM. Congratulations. Hope you like it.

12 thoughts on “Senator Flake’s Defense of the Establishment

  1. Amazona August 2, 2017 / 12:29 pm

    Arrrgghh…where to begin?

    ..egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy .. No, Moron Flake, not “attacks” but merely “questions”. Isn’t it a civic duty to make sure a president, and therefore a presidential candidate, is, you know, like ACTUALLY ELIGIBLE ? Yes, when questions were ignored, some started to see this as a strong indication that Obama’s eligibility was in question, but isn’t that a logical concern?

    As of today, August 2 2017, we STILL don’t know much about him. It appears he was a citizen, given that his mother was a citizen when he was born, but gee golly, wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to just give a press conference and lay out the facts instead of the bizarre evasions, lies and misdirections engaged in by Obama and his mouthpieces? No, a CLB is NOT a birth certificate, but a document designed specifically and solely to be used by people born out of the state of Hawaii. No, it is not illegal to have the state produce a certified copy of an actual birth certificate. And so on. The law was fairly clear about what it would take for a US citizen to convey citizenship on a child born out of the country, and this included age of the mother and time spent residing in the United States prior to the birth. That latter condition has never been fully addressed or verified.

    “Egregious”? “Attacks”? Hardly.

    I would hope any future candidate would be subjected to at least the same level of scrutiny. As a matter of fact, the same Left that argued so stridently about accepting the various “proofs” of Obama’s legitimacy attacked that of Cruz, whose mother was most definitely a citizen, most definitely old enough and most definitely had lived the requisite number of years in the country prior to his birth.

    So, Flake, you started off by proving yourself to be either ignorant, stupid or a pawn—and these are not mutually exclusive. by the way.

    If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

    Poor Flake, he must be suffering constant nosebleeds from occupying such a Higher Moral Ground. Of course, up there in the heights the disintegration of the United States as it was conceived and created and flourished for so many years is secondary to being able to preen about not having “malleable principles”. … what was the point of political victories in the first place? Well, one point would dismantling or at least weakening a wholly unconstitutional de facto fourth branch of government, ruled by unelected political appointees legislating without oversight, much less the participation of, the only true legislative body in the government. Is that a big enough point, Jeff? Or how about by taking at least one step toward stopping the decline of the Supreme Court into being merely a supremely powerful Leftist tool, once again ruled by unelected political appointees with no oversight or controls? I wonder if he would find a “point” in having a functional economy, or having a military capable of defending the country.

    And so on…..

  2. Cluster August 2, 2017 / 12:51 pm

    On behalf of conservatives throughout the State of Arizona, I apologize for our Senator.

    I posted this on the previous thread but it belongs here:

    I think it is time that all conservative minded people in fly over country realize and admit that the GOP has lied to us, and failed us. Ryan and McConnell are either massively incompetent, or simply lying through their teeth when they say they want to pass a conservative agenda.Their actions prove otherwise.

    We are being played people.

  3. simoneee9 August 2, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    Are we going to have to start watching this site all the time now, to keep foul language under control? This post is gone, and if you try to slip in another serious profanity you will be too.

    // Moderator

    • Cluster August 3, 2017 / 9:00 am

      Well Flake is just following the lead from his colleague and senior Senator John McCain – “The Maverick” – who at 80 years old felt that he was indispensable to the citizens of AZ and ran for reelection on the slogan “leading the charge to repeal Obamacare”, only to cast the deciding vote to save the ACA. See how that works?

      Good read over at AT:

      If you are passionate about protecting snail darters, spotted owls, and gray wolves but believe there’s a constitutional right to dismember a nine-month-old human baby in his mother’s womb, you are quite likely a Progressive Democrat.

    • Amazona August 3, 2017 / 9:53 am

      I see Simple Simon is back to his bigotry.

      Yet while he moans and groans about the alleged “dirtiness” of “everyone else” in the Republican Party, there is no definition of what he might consider “dirty”.

      As we never see simoneeeeeek complaining about the dirtiness of Democrats, we can speculate that the antics of those in the Democrat Party meet with his approval, which then goes to completely discredit any claim he might make to an ability to discern morality.

      So Simple Simon’s slur against “everyone else” in the GOP is nothing but more whining and squealing from yet another ninny who has absolutely nothing to say but insults. He just lurks around till some other Progressives tell him what he thinks, and then scurries out of his hole to come here and regurgitate it.

      Those of us who pay attention know there is a difference between a conservative and a Republican. We may vote Republican but those who pay attention know that we often criticize Republicans for failing to follow conservative principles. As a matter of fact, this entire thread is a critique of a Republican by a conservative. Yet SS seems to think he is plowing new ground by pointing out something negative about a Republican. Way to keep up, Simon.

      (BTW, it appears that though not all Republicans are conservatives, all Democrats are Progressives. Kind of illustrates the lack of actual thought in the Dem party, doesn’t it, as its sheeple obediently follow along behind their masters.)

  4. Cluster August 3, 2017 / 9:39 am

    I have a question for progressive democrats – where is $15/hr a “livable wage”? I would like to move there.

    • Amazona August 3, 2017 / 9:56 am

      Well, it IS a “living wage” if Uncle Sugar pays your rent, buys your food, and supplies you with a cell phone and insurance. That means you have plenty of your “living wage” to pay for the necessities, such as tattoos and piercings and dope.

      The thing is, Uncle Sugar gets that money from working people, and we are getting tired of it.

  5. Amazona August 8, 2017 / 2:23 pm

    Listening to the radio today, and hearing comments about whether or not Trump can drain the swamp. The answer is no, as long as people keep sending more alligators into it every year. When the people of Arizona send Flake and McCain to DC, it just makes it harder to get ahead on that swamp-draining thing.

    Voters seem to think that once they have elected their choice as president all they have to do is sit back and let him do what they want done. Sorry, folks—-you have to do your part. And that may mean hounding your state GOPs to get on the ball, too. As I have said, the Colorado GOP is pathetic. We ran good people against two weak candidates, Hickenlooper and Bennett, and ran the most toothless, inept and impotent campaigns anyone could imagine. The Looper didn’t even have to run an actual campaign, just ran a lot of ads in which his only message was that he was cute and harmless. Seriously—–wearing a tiny straw cowboy hat riding a grocery store plastic pony, etc. It was Howdy Doody Runs For Governor—but he had no opposition because the Colorado GOP was asleep at the switch.

    We have to beat the crap out of our people, day in and day out, when they don’t do their jobs. And we have to get rid of those old alligators instead of constantly sending them back to infest the swamp.

    • M. Noonan August 9, 2017 / 12:39 am

      That is the case – and it is also necessary to punish GOP office holders who betray the trust reposed in them. Right now, perennial (losing) candidate Danny Tarkanian is going to primary challenge Senator Heller. He doesn’t have a chance in heck and if by some miracle he won the nomination, he’d almost certainly lose in the general. But unless Heller changes his ways and starts to get on board, I’m going to be voting Tarkanian in the primary. To anyone who says, “we might lose our Senate majority doing that”, I’ll answer “what good does having a majority do for us at the moment?”. If we punish, then eventually those we elect will learn to be very wary of crossing us voters.

      • Amazona August 9, 2017 / 9:04 am

        I’m not familiar with Nevada politics, but it seems to me that a new Senator should be given a little time to find his footing, and voting for someone bound to lose just to “punish” him for a vote you don’t like seems very shortsighted. It also struck me as very odd that you, of all people, a true political junkie and observer and pundit, could possibly ask “what good does having a majority do for us at the moment?” We’ve gone over that time and time again here, and in countless other places. A majority gives power, such as committee chairmanships. It goes beyond merely passing bills.

        I think it foolish to throw away something that significant just to “punish” someone for votes you don’t like. A conscious decision to go from bad to worse just doesn’t make sense to me.

        If Heller is an alligator, it seems to me that the first approach should be to see if he is a trainable alligator before just giving up and handing the office over to the opposition. So far I haven’t seen him acting like a liberal RINO, though admittedly I haven’t followed him closely.

        I think we need to tolerate some squishies while focusing on the subversives.

      • M. Noonan August 10, 2017 / 12:38 am

        Heller ticked me off at the same time Joe Heck did – the guy who lost the 2016 Senate race. When things looked bad for Trump, the whole NV GOP pretty much dropped him like a bad habit…26,000 votes! That is how much Hillary won the State by, out of more than 1.1 million cast! And Heck lost by 26,000 as well. Just a few more enthused GOPers out there, and even Reid’s massive GOTV (ie, stuff the ballot box) effort would have fallen short. I can’t help but think that a bit more guts on the part of Heller and Heck and the NV GOP would have switched this State to Trump…and given us one more Senate seat. Sure, it is probably extreme to be looking to punish Heller, but I’m still going to do it. These guys have got to learn a lesson.

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